Recycling is mandatory for commercial and institutional establishments in the City of Pittsburgh (Code 619). The operator of every business establishment located within the City of Pittsburgh must establish a program to recycle high grade office paper, plastic bottles, corrugated cardboard, aluminum cans and leaf waste, where applicable. Establishments are also encouraged to recycle old newspaper and mixed paper. Establishments must provide a collection system within their business or operation and can haul the recyclables directly to a processor or may contract a private hauler to collect the recyclables. Events of 200 people or more are also required to collect recyclables. Read more<.
Pennsylvania Act 101, “Municipal Waste Planning, Recycling and Waste Reduction Act”, mandates recycling in Pennsylvania`s larger municipalities and requires counties to develop municipal waste management plans. Municipalities with populations of at least 10,000 had to implement curbside recycling programs by September 26, 1990. Municipalities with populations between 5,000 and 10,000 and more than 300 persons per square mile had to implement curbside programs by September 26, 1991. Other mandates in Act 101 cover leaf waste composting, lead batteries and other hazardous wastes. Read more.
A waste audit is the first step to starting a recycling program. Elements of a good waste audit are as follows:
1. Examine the Composition of the Waste Stream
Determine what materials you are currently disposing of and in what quantities. In developing your program keep in mind both high volume materials, such as cardboard and paper and potentially more valuable materials such as toner cartridges and aluminum cans.
2. Determine the Weight/Volume of Waste
Figure out the weight and volume of the materials you currently dispose of that could be recycled. Restaurants and bars generate large quantities of glass and are often charged a surcharge for collection due to the weight. Retailers generate large volumes of cardboard that can quickly fill dumpsters. If the establishment generates a high volume of cardboard it may pay to look at baling the material which can help increase the marketability of the cardboard.
3. Evaluate the Sources of Waste
Look at your overall operation and determine where the waste is being generated and if this material can be:
4. Improve the Collection System
Always locate collection containers where the recyclables are being generated. The easier it is to recycle, the higher the participation rate will be. Clearly mark all collection containers and minimize the ability for contamination of recyclables. Locating the recycling containers near trash cans can cut down on contamination.
5. Analyze the Benefits
The main reason for starting a recycling program is to reduce waste collection costs, but waste reduction can have other benefits including: quantifiable green house gas and energy reduction, increased employee satisfaction, increased customer approval of business operations and a step towards ZiP, LEED or other building operations certification. After implementing your recycling program you need to conduct a second waste audit to see if your program has significantly reduced the amount of waste generated. If it has, you may be able to reduce your collection schedule or size of your waste container, which will save you money.
The audit's objectives will largely determine the types of waste and physical locations to be audited. Some examples of audit objectives could be:
Unless you have a tiny office you will need others to help sort the waste. It may be possible to train staff to audit their respective offices, but professional auditing contractors can be particularly useful. During the process, professional auditors can also spot other possible anomalies and problems that might not be apparent to office, cleaning and building maintenance staff.
Yes. During the waste composition portion of the waste audit, the trash for the entire building, event or specific department are categorized for a known period of time. That means hand sorting all trash or representative samples in order to measure weights and volumes of all materials.
When doing the waste composition study, training and safety equipment must be organized to ensure sorters are safe from potential hazards associated with handling waste. Puncture resistant gloves, hand sanitizer, safety glasses and masks are just some of the equipment that should be utilized.
The audit process should work within the existing confidentiality policies. The confidentiality and privacy of documents or personal information found in the waste stream must be assured. No documents should be read or removed from the sorting area. If waste is to be transported to another location to be sorted then it must be stored and disposed of securely.
It is essential that staff must not know when the audit is happening. Much like cars slowing down on the highway when there is a police officer around, the audit of the buildings operations will not reflect normal waste behavior if employees know when it is to occur.
City of Pittsburgh Recycling Division can loan you recyclable collection bins for special events for free! This is primarily open to events in the City of Pittsburgh, but neighboring municipalities may also be able to borrow the collection bins in certain instances. The city’s special events recycling brochure and environmental services website provide some more information on obtaining containers to do recycling at your event. Plan to contact the city no later than 2 weeks prior to your event. See the Recycling Division Website or view the City’s events recycling brochure for more information.
BEWARE!!! There are many companies that are jumping on the green serviceware bandwagon with claims that are dubious and misleading. Some things to keep in mind while looking for serviceware are:
Compostable wares of all kinds are now readily available in the marketplace. Many supermarkets are now stocking these types of products, and many more types are readily available online. Various types include corn-based, paper fiber-based, and bagasse-based (a sugar cane byproduct). As mentioned above, though, be careful with products that claim to be compostable. Look for products that are Certified Compostable by the Biodegradable Products Institute.
Many municipalities offer residential curbside pickup of many types of recyclables. Others have dropoff locations for both residents and businesses. However, be sure to check which materials your municipality collects, especially which of types of plastics #1 - #6 are accepted. Contact the recycling coordinator in your county listed under Other Resources below. City of Pittsburgh residents should view the annual mailer showing what materials are collected, and see the latest pickup schedule on the City’s Residential Recycling website.
Commercial businesses that want to arrange for pickup at their place of business should contact one of the commercial haulers listed below to set up an operating contract. Costs are based on the frequency of pickup and the volume of material being recycled.
The City of Pittsburgh Environmental Services Division publishes a list of businesses that provide waste and recycling services. Note that not all of these companies are haulers.
Many municipalities have yard waste drop off locations. Check with your municipality or county recycling coordinator
Nearly all food waste can be commercially composted, and if you purchase and use compostable plates, napkins and cutlery (see Compostable Wares above), these can be composted as well. The kinds of products that can be composted include:
In the Pittsburgh region, there is currently only one company offering commercial composting, AgRecycle. AgRecycle can provide both pickup services from businesses and events, and also offers dropoff services for small-volume customers. The resulting compost, a nutrient-rich soil additive, can also be purchased from AgRecycle. Keep on the lookout for the yellow food waste collection dumpster to see which businesses are composting!
The Three Rivers Table (TRT) is a program of the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank (GPCFB) that offers a solution for the donation of perishable items. If you are running an event series or food service business that will be generating perishable food waste that meets the below criteria on then you may be able to divert those materials through this program. For more information about TRT, contact Food Resource Manager, Kathy Hruska: 412-460-3663 x 210 firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about food donation see TRT’s Food Donor Pack.
TRT Can Accept:
TRT Can NOT Accept:
Construction Junction is a building materials reuse non-profit organization located in the Point Breeze area of Pittsburgh. The facility is open to the public seven days a week, where patrons can donate materials and also purchase items from the warehouse store. See the Construction Junction website for more detail.
The Center for Creative Reuse accepts materials to be used in creative arts programs as well as by the general public. Items that Creative Reuse Pittsburgh accepts are materials:
Donations must be preapproved. Call, email or visit to discuss your donation. Pickup may be available for larger donations. Visit the website to find hours, location, and more.
There are many choices for disposal of electronic waste, but the landfill is not one of them. Some e-Waste recyclers in the Pittsburgh area include eLoop LLC, A greenSpan and Goodwill Industries. Whomever you choose, consider what those companies do with your equipment. The Basel Action Network's e-Stewards program certifies that the materials a company collects are not shipped overseas to be disassembled, and are strictly handled in the United States. Make sure that the company you choose can document both the correct environmental handling of your equipment and the safe destruction of your data.
Hazardous waste generated by businesses include things like cleaning products, automotive fluids, chemicals used in manufacturing processes, paint products, herbicides & pesticides, and many more. These materials require special handling and are not collected by Zero Waste Pittsburgh. In addition, improper or illegal disposal of these products can cause serious environmental and health related problems and carry severe penalties. Please contact a licensed hazardous waste disposal company for proper disposal. Here are some companies that provide services in the Pittsburgh area:
Other items – Peruse the Allegheny County Recycling Directory
Recycling Coordinators can help you determine the specifics on the recycling program in your municipality. As every municipality is slightly different, it is important to find out exactly what the requirements are and what types of materials are accepted in your municipality’s curbside or dropoff recycling program.
|Allegheny County||Joy Smallwood (email)||412-578-8390|
|Armstrong County||Sally Conklin (email)||724-548-3223|
|Beaver County||C. J. Raabe (email)||724-843-9450|
|Butler County||Sheryl Kelly (email)||724-284-5300|
|Fayette County||Warren Hughes (email)||724-430-4884|
|Greene County||Justin Kubicar (email)||724-852-5300|
|Indiana County||Timothy Long (email)||724-479-0444|
|Lawrence County||Jerry Zona (email)||724-658-6925|
|Washington Cty||Jason Theakston (email)||724-228-6811|
|Westmoreland Cty||Ellen Keefe (email)||724-836-4129|
How Recycling Works
A very good step-by-step explanation of the recycling process
A detailed explanation of the recycling process, with in-depth descriptions of each material type
A good video for understanding how single stream recyclables are sorted at a MRF (Materials Recover a Facitility
Which material can be recycled
A description of various types of recyclables
Pennsylvania DEP has a short chart describing what is and isn’t recyclable
How Composting Works
An explanation from HowStuffWorks.com
How to Monitor your Waste Reduction Program
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) runs a voluntary program called WasteWise. The program offers participants guidance and an innovative and useful tracking tool called Re-TRAC. The WasteWise program is open to businesses, trade associations, schools, colleges, universities, and federal, state, local, and tribal governments.